AUNTIE AUBREY’S EXCURSIONS BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY PART 2-THE ORB REMIX PROJECT.

AUNTIE AUBREY’S EXCURSIONS BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY PART 2-THE ORB REMIX PROJECT.

Sometimes, unless you dig deep, trawling the internet to discover what albums are about to be released, albums can pass you by. The reason for this is quite simple, purely because they’re released without fanfare, or much in the way of promotion. This means that people who’d otherwise buy these albums, miss them, purely because they’re unaware the album has even been released. In some ways, this low-key approach to promotion is a welcome alternative to the hype and overkill major record companies use when marketing albums by some of the supposed “major artists.” Conversely, this must cost artists sales, especially artists who are signed to smaller labels. Another problem with this low-key approach to marketing is that some great albums lay undiscovered and unloved by music lovers. Thankfully, because I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting albums to review, I came across an album that many people won’t be aware of. It’s the second volume of remixes from The Orb, entitled Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project. Released on 23rd April 2012, this two-disc set was originally released back in 2001 and features twenty remixes by The Orb. Last year, saw the rerelease of the first volume of remixes, Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 1-The Orb Remix Project, which had originally been released back in 1996. Given the quality of ambient and chill-out music on both compilations, these are welcome rereleases. Indeed, with so many quality remixes on Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project, choosing just a few of the compilation’s highlights isn’t easy. Somehow, though, I’ve managed to do so and these are my highlights from the compilation.

DISC ONE.

On Disc One of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project, some of The Orb’s best known remixes feature. Indeed, one of the best know is their remix of Primal Scream’s Higher Than the Sun. Among the other highlights are KLF’s 3AM Eternal, The Orb’s track Once More and Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Music From A Found Harmonium. Apart from this, there are remixes of tracks from Lisa Stansfield, Tubeway Army, Rick Wright, Art of Noise, Wendy and Lisa and intriguingly, Robbie Williams v The Orb’s I Started A Joke. With so many great remixes, choosing a few wasn’t easy, but with after much debate and indecision, these are my highlights of Disc One of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project.

My first choice is KLF’s 3AM Eternal, a track from KLF’s 1990 ambient house album chill out. The version included is the eight minute Blue Danube Orbital Mix. This demonstrates perfectly The Orb’s skill as remixers, producing a track that’s dubby, spacey and atmospheric. It’s a track full of samples, sound effects and surprises. One minute you’re listening to spoken-word samples, slow spacey drums swathed in echo and delay, the next, snatches of the Blue Danube waltz enter. They’re replaced by bird song, washes of synths and echoey vocals. Layer upon layer of this ambient soundscape gradually, reveal surprises and subtleties, teasing and tantalizing, with aural delights aplenty. Regardless of how many times you listen to the track, some new surprise or delight reveals itself. Of all the remixes The Orb have ever done, this remains worthy of the word classic.

Having just used the  C-word, classic, I find myself retyping the word. How can that be I hear you ask? Well, quite simple, once you’ve heard The Orb’s remix of Primal Scream’s Higher Than The Sun you’ll realize why. The Battersea Shield Mix is one of my favorite remixes of this track. This is from Primal Scream’s seminal 1991 album Screamadelica, where they fused dance and indie rock. It’s only 81 beats per minute, with Bobby Gillespie’s haunting vocal sitting amidst slow, punchy, dubby drums, while washes of atmospheric synths glide in and out of the mix. Spoken-word samples, haunting vocals, plus a myriad of otherworldly sounds join, enter and leave the track. Synths beep and squeak, while drums provide the heartbeat of the track. Together, the effect and combination is irresistible and mesmerizing, making you dig out you’re much loved copy of Screamadelica, one more time and succumb to its seminal delights. 

Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman were  part of Prince’s backing band The Revolution, in the early eighties. After that, they launched a solo career, as Wendy and Lisa and briefly, as Girl Bros. They’ve since released five albums, but Staring At The Sun doesn’t feature on any of their albums. Here, The Orb remix the track, with The Blinding Mix nearly nine minutes of enthralling and compelling music. The track features several of The Orb’s favorite ingredients spoken word samples, albeit swathed in echo, while distant drums pound, augmented by a myriad of mystical, eastern sounds. Keyboards drift in out of the track, as Wendy and Lisa’s distant vocals provide a contrast, sounding wistful and melancholy. Like the drums, the vocals are distant, giving them a mysterious, otherworldly sound. When all this is combined, the effect is an ambient soundscape, with secrets awaiting discovery.

Lisa Stansfield’s Time To Make You Mine was originally, a track from her second album, 1991s Real Love. However, this is Lisa Stansfield with a twist. Never before will you have heard Lisa like this. Using two spoken-word samples, the second of which heavily borrows from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Orb’s In My Dreams Mix starts to reveal its hidden depths. Amidst slow, crispy drums and stabs of atmospheric, repetitive synths sits Lisa’s emotive, sensuous vocal. Although slow, somewhat distant swathed by drums, synths and bursts of rocky guitars, Lisa’s vocal is bewitching, full of emotion and promise. Backing vocalists float in the ether, while Lisa’s vocal tantalizes, drifting in and out of the mix. For ten minutes, you’re enthralled, captivated and ultimately smitten by the beauty of Lisa’s vocal, not forgetting The Orb’s skills as remixers par excellence.

The last track from Disc One of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project is Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Music for a Found Harmonium. Although this track was a staple of many a chill out or downtempo album, the Pandaharmoniumorb Mix brings new meaning to the track. This was a track from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s 1984 album Broadcasting From Home, which is a must-have album for lovers of downtempo or chill out music. Here, The Orb turn the track into a broody, moody soundscape. It’s full of mystical and futuristic sounds, with spoken-word samples, haunting vocals and chiming bells before eventually, you hear the mainstay of the original song, albeit swathed in filters. The track has been slightly sped up, with the track resonating. My only criticism is the use of filters. They slightly detract from the track’s intrinsic beauty. Apart from that, this remix brings new life and meaning to a true chill-out classic.

While I’ve only mentioned five of the ten tracks on Disc One of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project,), I could just as easily have mentioned several other tracks. However, tracks like KLF’s 3AM Eternal and f Primal Scream’s Higher Than The Sun chose themselves. Other tracks like the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Music for a Found Harmonium is a true classic of the chill-out or downtempo genres. Lisa Stansfield’s Time To Make You Mine shows a different side to her music, with her vocal on this remix bewitching. Of the other tracks on Disc One, I could just as easily have mentioned tracks by The Orb, The Art of Noise or Tubeway Army. That shows the consistency of quality on Disc One. Will the music on Disc Two of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project be just good though?

DISC TWO.

Disc Two of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project sees The Orb remix tracks from an eclectic selection of artists. This includes Mike Oldfield, System 7, Can, Meat Beat Manifesto, Tangerine Dream and The Damage Manual. Mind you, this eclectic selection isn’t surprising. Before 2001, when this compilation was originally released, The Orb were one of the most in-demand remixers, this isn’t surprising. They were one of the remixers of choice, hired to remix some of music’s biggest names. While many of these big names are absent from this compilation, the eclectic nature of the artists on Disc Two is quite apparent and astounding, as you’ll realize when I pick my highlights from Disc Two of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project.

One of the biggest names on Disc Two is Mike Oldfield. Here The Orb remix a track Oldfield v The Orb Sentinel. This is the Nobel Prize Mix, all fourteen and a half minutes of it. There’s a futuristic sound to the track, with haunting, otherworldly samples and sounds present from the get-go. Pounding drums, resounding synths and a moody, haunting vocal whose presence is not unlike Banquo’s ghost all play their part in this 21st Century soundscape. Drums gallop across the arrangement, with synths adding encouragement, not unlike the effect a jockey’s whip has on a horse. Gradually, the track decides to share it’s secrets, marauding along at 133 beats per minute. By now, you’re hooked, enthralled by the remix, wondering what will happen now? What surprises have The Orb in store? For over fourteen minutes you’re spellbound, won over by this futuristic soundscape and all its 21st Century delights.

Back when chill-out and downtempo music was flavor of the month, System 7 were one of the most popular purveyors of chill-out music. Miracle was a track from their 1991 album System 7 and here the Orb Remix gives the track a new twist. The track is louder, more in your face than some tracks on the compilation. Flourishes of synths, which have an Italian Piano House sound, combine with crunchy, pounding drums, while sirens explode above the arrangement. A myriad of sounds and styles are thrown in The Orb’s remixing pot, including bursts of rock-tinged guitars. When this is all combined with a tempo of 122 beats per minute, the effect is a track that fuses Italian Piano House, downtempo, house and rock guitars. Somehow this works, resulting in a track that brings back memories of Acid House and the second summer of love.

Can released Tago Mago in February 1971. One of the tracks from the double-album was Halleluwa an eighteen minute epic. Here, The Orb’s Halleluwa Orbus II remix is only nine minutes, but is the perfect introduction to Can’s music, for people yet to discover the delights of Krautrock. When the track opens, The Orb deploy several samples that are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. They’ve a surreal quality, the perfect Amuse Bouche to the chugging, meandering combination of washes of synths and sound effects that wind their way into your consciousness. From there, it’s an otherworldly mixture of synths, sound effects and drums that wind their way slowly and atmospherically across the arrangement. This is ambience personified, best just to lie back and submit to the glorious, atmospheric charms of Can and The Orb.

Tangerine Dream, like Can, are another pioneering German electronic group, founded in the sixties. Like Can, their music is given The Orb remix treatment. Towards the Evening Star is the track chosen, with this the Mandarin Cream Mix. It’s eight minutes of electronic pioneers old and new. With a combination of atmospheric sounding samples and synths the track gets underway. Again, it’s ambience personified, with stabs of synths, drums and the sound of the desert wind blowing in. Then, just as you’re succumbing to the low-key sounds and delights, things liven up. Not too much though, just enough to ensure you’ve not slipped into a bliss-like sleep, caused by the aural delights of Can and The Orb. However, after three minutes, the track almost explodes, snapping you out of your ambience induced enjoyment. There’s still the quality, but louder, faster but still enthralling, compelling and intriguing.

My final choice from Disc Two of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project is Witchman’s Angel Art The Tale of The Orb Remix. This is hip-hop given a makeover by The Orb, so expect scratches and samples a plenty. Crispy drums, so loud they test the tolerance of your speakers, are combined with a rapped otherworldly vocal, bursts of spooky, haunting samples. Add to this stabs of synths and spoken-word samples that have The Orb’s trademark style and humor all are mixed together, to a produce a hip-hop soundscape The Orb way.

Like the music on Disc One of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project, the ten tracks that comprise Disc Two contain some great remixes by The Orb. This includes their remixes of Mike Oldfield, System 7, Can, Tangerine Dream and Witchman. That’s not forgetting tracks by The Grid, Meat Beat Manifesto and The Damage Manual. The music on Disc Two demonstrates just how eclectic a selection of artists The Orb have remixed over the years. These include artists from the sixties onwards, including Tangerine Dream, Can and Mike Oldfield. This is quite fitting, given artists like this trio were among the pioneers of electronic music. Similar to the music on Disc One, the music on Disc Two has a consistent quality, with some aural, ambient treats awaiting discovery. Now, although I enjoyed the two discs of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project I must add a caveat. When I received my copy of Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project, I was expecting the album would have been remastered and new version released for 2012. Not at all. When I looked at the sleeve and saw that this was the 2002 version, I felt short-changed., cheated even. Why did the record company not release a new version, one that was remastered I hear you ask?  This would’ve been a good idea, as the album could benefit from a remaster. Well, there’s a good reason why the record company, Deviant  Records, didn’t release a new version. They went into liquidation in 2006 and obviously, are no longer trading. However, regardless of this, if you’re a fan of either The Orb or chill-out music, then Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond The Call of Duty Part 2-The Orb Remix Project will appeal to you, that is, if you don’t mind buying a copy of a ten year old album. Standout Tracks: KLF 3AM Eternal, Primal Scream Higher Than The Sun, Lisa Stansfield Time To Make You Mine and Can Halleluwa.

AUNTIE AUBREY’S EXCURSIONS BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY PART 2-THE ORB REMIX PROJECT.

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